Tuesday, December 23, 2014
Besides...everyone knows that the green M&Ms are the best.
M&M: [cough, cough, cough...POOT!!!]
The Queen and I exchange a quizzical glance and look into the back seat where we find a smiling M&M looking back at us.
M&M: Did you smell it?
It's a good thing we were stopped at a light.
Friday, December 19, 2014
[some strange email address from a domain that does not look secure]
4:49 PM (15 hours ago)
Hello Daddy Hawk!
I have read your resume and I would like to propose you a position with our company. It is an easy job with a permanent salary in the amount of $3 000 plus commission and social insurance. We are searching for candidates who are able to support business relationship between customers located in another country.
You don't need special skills, our manager will send you a detailed description and support you by phone. To get started you'll need to create an account with any local bank to process the transactions from our clients and sign a contract with the HR Department.
You will be able to get your first money in about 5 business days. If you're enthusiastic about please contact our company by email, we will support you.
Seems legit. What do you think?
Given the interesting grasp of the English language sentence structure and syntax, I'm guessing money laundering for drug cartels or middle man for Nigerian scammers.
Either way...just not interested.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
I'll make this simple: STOP HITTING YOURSELF! Seriously. Put down the shovel, go take a bottle of Tylenol and reread the Bible and the Constitution when you wake up.
I'll be the first to state that, as a conservative Christian, I believe the Bible is very clear on the subject of homosexuality. The Bible is also very clear about not judging others, accepting people as they are (while loving them and encouraging them to sin no more) and looking after your own problems before you try to solve everyone else's. I'll also be the first to admit that I do not understand the "cause" of homosexuality anymore than I do particle physics, and I'm pretty sure no one living has a decent grasp on that subject either. We can debate genetics and nature versus nurture until the end of time; but, if you listen closely, you can just make out the sound of God laughing at us for thinking we have a clue.
So, it strikes me that these well intentioned folks are suffering from a special form of stupid to think that 1)homosexuality can be "fixed" through therapy, 2) that it's any of the government's business in the first place, and 3) there ought to be a law to do something about it.
Do you want to take a stand on moral issues? Fine be me. Live your life according to those morals. Be the example you want others to follow. Talk to people about why you do what you do when offered the opportunity. Talk to them out of love and be respectful of that teachable moment.
Do you want to make a difference in state and national level politics? Fine by me. Stick to things that are defined by the Constitution as being the government's business. Let's talk fiscal policy. Let's talk foreign policy. Let's talk about securing the borders. Let's talk about taxes. Let's talk about how entitlements are bankrupting the county. Let's talk about the ideas you have to make Texas and America stronger (or strong again depending on your point of view).
Let's stay out of people's bedrooms. Let's stay out of people's minds. This isn't Orwell's 1984. There should be no political correctness. There should be no hate crimes or thought police. You don't fix racism by inciting riots and perpetuating the "us vs. them" mentality. You change people's hearts and minds by being the best example you can be.
[dropping mike and stepping off soap box]
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
"In looking back, I realize that, for them, being a parent was something the learned by trial and error; that mistakes were made and forgiven, even as my own were. They were two imperfect and flawed human beings whose actions were recognition and protection of that brave bargain that is parenthood." - L.B. Johnson (if you don't already know who she is [and you really should], ask me via email)
Once upon a time, I heard it said that parenting is the only profession left up entirely to amateurs. There is no class that can adequately prepare you for parenthood. The reality of getting up at 2:00 AM to feed a baby or change the sheets that were just violated unspeakably has to be experienced. The responsibility to care for, protect, guide and educate an innocent, clean slate of a human being weighs heavily on the shoulders, but it is not a burden to suffered. Rather, it is a forge that strengthens you and tempers you and the results can be as rough or refined as the effort you put into it.
Children are a blessing. Treat them as such and cherish every moment with them.
Thursday, December 11, 2014
1) Don't run...you'll only die tired.
While this has been the motto of the United States Marine Corps Snipers, there is much truth here for you to consider. Note, the slowest bullet I shoot flys at a leisurely (and subsonic) 850ish feet per second.
2) No smoking...unless you enjoy being on fire.
3) Old age and treachery trumps youth and ability.
I was your age once. I know what you're thinking. I know what you're going to do before you do it. You, however, lack the breadth of my experience. You have no idea what I am capable of. By the way...your shoe laces are untied.
4) Life isn't fair...neither am I.
You are assumed to be on notice of the rules and expectations. If you are unclear on what those rules or expectations are, you'd best ask questions ahead of time.
5) Freedom of choice exists...freedom from consequences does not.
Go ahead...try and violate the law of gravity. See how that works out for you. Same concept applies with me and my daughter.
Have a nice day.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
One of these days, I need to get around to telling the story of Number 1 Follower and I getting his 4x4 Dodge Power Ram stuck in the mud...twice...in the same spot...on the same day. It was truly epic face palm material. The bottomline is that a lot of people spend a lot of their time doing busy work or spinning their wheels and getting exactly nothing done.
2) "If I were persecuted for my religion, I truly hope there would be enough evidence to convict me." - John Wooden
It's easy to say you are a believer in anything, but the reality of living by those beliefs is another matter entirely.
3) "If you're offered a seat on a rocket ship, you don't ask which seat. You just get on." - Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google.
There will come a time when you are offered an opportunity so fantastic that you just need to say thank you, shut up, sit down and hang on for the ride no matter how long or short that ride is.
4) A college degree doesn't make you smart, and a lack of one doesn't make you uneducated. - Daddy Hawk
I've been around more than my fair share of supposedly educated people (with college degrees and advanced degrees in some cases) who exhibited a complete lack of intelligence such to cause one to wonder whether they, in fact, had black mail photos on someone in the registrar's office. By contrast, some of the smartest and most talented people I've ever known never finished grade school much less college.
5) "When everyone is super, then no one will be." - Syndrome - The Incredibles
I would much rather you try your hardest and come home with a third place trophy (or last place ribbon for that matter) than for you and everyone else to be told you are all winners and receive the same reward just for showing up.
Friday, December 5, 2014
I had my first ever on demand digital interview this morning. It was weird, but it went surprisingly smooth.
Basically, the concept is that a prospective employer wants to get you in front of a wider variety of people for consideration. So, they send you a link to a website where you can complete the interview at your convenience (6:00 AM in my case). They supply the questions, and you get 30 seconds per question to prepare followed by 3 minutes per question to wax eloquent to your webcam.
They give you a practice question to warm up to which I thought I sounded like a bumbling moron which is being unfair to bumbling morons. They also give you helpful suggestions like dress professionally like you would for an in person interview, look at the camera and not the screen, avoid filler words, etc.
It felt like I spent the entire time looking at the screen saying "uh, um, you know". A recruiter called me this afternoon with a follow up question and said I did really well. Her comment was that I sounded smooth as silk. I'll take that.
Next step is a phone interview with the hiring manager next week sometime which will make three interviews on the books for next week.
Wish me luck. Prayers and good vibes appreciated.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
Thankfully, it appears that patience, diligence and persistence are paying off in the form of some real interviews in front of real live people as I had a second interview for one position and a first interview for another this week. I have two second interviews scheduled for next week. A connection I met in law school called me to see if I would be interested in a position, and he has forwarded my resume to the appropriate person from whom I am awaiting a call.
Then, today, I got the most interesting one yet. A request for a "digital interview". Apparently, I will log into a website, click a button and answer a standard set of questions via webcam.
That's a new twist.
Hopefully, one of these opportunities will turn into a job offer and not turn back into mice at midnight. One can hope.
I'll keep y'all updated as events warrant and time permits.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
In the wake of the mess in Ferguson, it is refreshing to see a story of the police doing a thankless job that needs to be done...but doing it with style and humility to boot.
Case on point from Austin, TX: Here is an excerpt that gets at the heart of the issue (pun intended):
The incident that unfolded rapidly Friday morning was laid out minute-by-minute during a Monday briefing at Austin police headquarters. Acevedo said about 13 minutes passed from the first report of shots being fired at the Mexican Consulate to the moment McQuilliams fell to the ground from a single gunshot.
Mounted patrol officer Sgt. Adam Johnson fired the shot from 312 feet away using his service handgun, which he aimed with one hand while holding the reins of two horses in the other. It struck McQuilliams in the heart.
In contrast to at least 103 shots McQuilliams fired at Austin Police Department’s downtown headquarters, Johnson’s was the only bullet fired by Austin police during the incident, Acevedo said.
“We’re giving (Johnson) a lot of credit, but he feels very strongly there was some divine intervention and he wanted me to share that,” Acevedo said.
A quick Google search reveals that APD standardized to the Smith & Wesson M&P40 in 2010. I have a small bit of experience with that pistol, and I can honestly say I'm impressed with Sgt. Johnson's feat. Hitting a heart sized target at 25 yards with an M&P40 in one shot with both hands is by no means an easy shot.
He did it at 104 yards. One handed. While holding the reins of not one but two horses.
THEN, he says it was divine intervention. How cool is that? In the heart of the most liberal city in Texas, a police officer credits a higher power for an amazing feat of skill under pressure which undoutedly saved lives.
Well done, Sgt. Johnson. Well done.
Friday, November 28, 2014
Thursday, November 20, 2014
Any explanation, this year, the choices were Oxnard, CA; Tulsa, OK and the middle of nowhere Kentucky. The Queen, being a California native, REALLY wanted to go there. Health (The Queen's) and circumstances (my employment status) threatened to derail our ability to go at all much less California. There was also the minor detail of how to get there.
Us, not so much.
So, driving was our only viable option.
I digress again. Our plan to travel this go round was further hampered by yours truly who fell Friday evening before our intended departure date. I was carrying M&M, and we were climbing up some rocks at the lake to get to a boardwalk when a rock shifted under my feet. It threw me off balance. The Queen was out of arms reach and unable to assist. I had a choice of falling over backwards and potentially cracking my skull open or worse or dropping both M&M and I straight down. I held M&M out at arms length in the hopes that I would not land on her and tried to fall gracefully. I don't have pictures of the damage. M&M was physically fine but lamented the loss of the gumball she had been licking in horrible wails of anguish. I lost some skin on my right foot in two places (dime size and quarter sized) and had a huge knot swell up in the meat of the arch of my right foot. Walking was painful to say the least (I thought I had broken something at first).
We went home and elevated and iced the foot. By Saturday, the swelling had gone down and I was able to walk with less pain. Regular shoes were right out because the larger patch of missing skin was right below my ankle and rubbed on everything. Fortunately, I have a pair of sandals that didn't interfere with the mess.
Sunday morning dawned, and The Queen gave a green light on her end. No one was clammering for my services for the near future. So, we loaded up a small Uhaul cargo trailer with our luggage (The Queen does not know the meaning of the phrase "pack light"), some camping equipment, a cooler full of food, and pointed the Navigator west.
First stop: Carlsbad, NM.
I should mention that we left the house with no (zip, zero, nada) accommodation reservations. Since we did not know whether we would be able to go until the last minute, making reservations seemed a bit presumptuous (not to mention potentially an expensive waste of money). So, we made the reservations (if any) as we went. Our first night was spent in the KOA campground outside of Carlsbad. It's actually a very nice place to stay if you ever find yourself in that neck of the woods with a yen for something other than a hotel. They even have small cabins for rent. We chose to pitch our tent for the night and had a restful, if chilly, night's sleep being serenaded by coyotes.
Day two started with breakfast at the Denny's in Carlsbad (truly, horrible service...worst restaurant service I've had in a long time) followed by a tour of Carlsbad Caverns.
Imagine pictures of a really big cave here...none of the ones I took were blog worthy. We did get a nice tourist to take a family shot for us...which you would see in this space if Google Drive were being cooperative right now which it isn't.
|I gave up on Google Drive and went with the laptop hard drive|
|M&M sacked out in a pile of comforters...for such a small girl, she can cover some real estate|
Day four dawned to a beautifully clear sunrise and no idea where we were going to stay for the next 8 days. An attempt was made to have breakfast. I say attempt because, apparently, someone was so anxious for me to get in touch with the rental property manager that I was not allowed to finish my omelette before being frog marched at knife point to my phone with strict instructions to make arrangements.
There were three properties we were interested in. Through careful process of elimination, it was determined that only one of the properties had any chance of working for us. Fortunately for us, the most likely candidate was the one we had been most interested in from the beginning. So, after a couple of calls, arrangements were made to see the property in person. It passed muster, and we went around the block to the property manager's office to sign papers and fork over money.
This was our prize and home for the next several days.
This picture does not do it justice. The main selling points were that it is right across the street from the beach and was the most unique place we had seen. It was originally built in the 1920s as a beach shack and had been added onto, remodeled and rebuilt over the years. According to a plaque on the curb, it was redesigned by a 14 year old with help from his dad.
|You thought I was kidding|
Check in time rolled around at 3:00, and we were ready to be rid of the Uhaul trailer that had stalked us all the way from Texas. While I was unloading the trailer, I got a phone call from a major insurance carrier that had invited me to apply for a position. Lo and behold, they wanted to schedule an in person interview at their offices in the DFW area. I explained my present location and inquired as to when they would like my presence in theirs. They said "How does Friday, October 24 work for you?" I said, "Perfect."
I informed The Queen that I had something positive to look forward to when we got home from the trip and continued my efforts. The Queen was pleased.
But wait, the job hunt news gets better. Not only did I get the Ronco major carrier interview and turnip twaddler scheduled, but Day Five dawned to find an email in my inbox from a recruiter that said:
"I know this is wild, but [major third party administrator company] wants to extend you an offer based on your resume."
A phone call confirmed that they were offering a contract temp senior adjuster position handling commercial general liability claims at a "market rate" salary. The "market rate" was the hourly rate that I had asked for. So, I couldn't exactly complain even though it's 33% less than what I was making. Come to find out that the rate I asked for is at the high end and even above the high end of the current market rate for senior adjusters. We'll talk about that in a minute. The start date was negotiated to begin shortly after our return from California, paperwork was received and sent back and The Queen was pleased to know that there would be a job and a paycheck waiting for us when we got back. I was, frankly, relieved to know that someone wanted me even if it was for a step back in position and pay.
I was told, by the recruiter, that the position had the potential to go full time, and that the company would likely just convert the hourly rate over to salary and all would be well. If you've ever dealt with recruiters, the worst of them are rather distant acquaintances with the truth. This one might have met truth at a party once, but experience reveals that he hasn't trying calling the fake phone number she gave him.
Oh, the company likes me alright, and they would like to keep me (after first telling me that they didn't hire temps). Unfortunately, the salary does not convert over, and their salary ranges are somewhat lower than "market rate". Which is a shame because the people are nice, and the work is not difficult. I just can't cut the budget any closer to the bone than I already have.
There's more stuff in the works on the Jobba the Hunt front, but nothing is ripe yet. I've applied for 56 positions so far. I've had exactly one face to face interview (the aforementioned major carrier interview) which didn't pan out due to differences in salary expectations. There have been only a couple of other telephone screening interviews, but the vast majority of my application efforts has failed to yield anything more than a "thanks, but no thanks" email.
It's enough to give a guy a complex.
Anytrip, enough about my employment search. There's trip pictures to share.
The return trip home was nothing special. We had to cut it a day short because M&M started having allergy issues and was miserable. We made it home safely. It's hard to believe that was a month ago already.
Much has transpired since last we spoke to borrow a phrase from the Denton PD "Dear Chief" letter. It's my bed time. Y'all write when you can. I'll do the same.
Saturday, November 8, 2014
Sunday, November 2, 2014
But, it's a paycheck when I needed it most.
So, I'm putting everything I have into it so that I have a better shot of making the most of it. Some other things are in the works both short term and long term. If all goes according to plan, I should have a little more free time for writing and blogging by the end of the year.
Until then, I'll give you what I can when I can.
Monday, October 13, 2014
Thursday, October 2, 2014
A gift from number one follower and all around best bud. He knows me too well. I don't care if 9mm is cheaper than or just as effective as .45ACP. I like .45s because I like making bigger holes in things.
The Queen spotted this at the local Walmart the other day. Yes, it is exactly what it says it is. Yes, it's juvenile and immature. I must have it.
Wednesday, October 1, 2014
She's a great little girl and a wonderful blessing.
Monday, September 29, 2014
"The loss was expected given the deformity found in vitro but they insisted on carrying to term to give her even a little love here on earth.
Tuesday, September 16, 2014
It's an article on Slate about a freelance cartoonist that illustrated a quote from Calvin & Hobbes creator Bill Watterson in the style of Calvin & Hobbes.
Monday, September 15, 2014
Thursday, September 11, 2014
Yep, five years ago in August, I gave in to the hare brained temptation that writing my thoughts down in pixel form for the amusement of others was a good idea. Thank you all for your continued patronage. If nothing else, I hope I have at least served as an example of how not to run blog.
So, what has been occupying my time?
Well, there has been the whole felony theft mess. The detective assigned to the case by the Dallas Police Department was very nice and patient with us. We were a bit disappointed earlier this week when she called to advise us that the DA's office would not be taking the case and pursuing criminal charges. They considered it a civil matter in light of the fact that we voluntarily gave the property to the thief/con man.
That kicked over my hornet's nest, and I went into private investigator/squeaky wheel mode. I found some more information that we didn't have previously which basically confirmed that the dirt bag really can't tell the truth about anything. I presented that information along with a detailed explanation of how our case most certainly DOES meet the definitions of the Texas Penal Code theft statute, how voluntary surrender of property is not the issue and the intent of the person committing the crime IS, and how the other charges and convictions ARE evidence of his intent according to the statute. In addition to that, I posed several questions that the dirt bag SHOULD answer were he, in fact, a legitimate business man not intent on defrauding people out of their property.
Well, the detective called this morning to let us know that she spoke with another DA who has agreed to take the case. Hurray for the squeaky wheel!!! We'll see what happens next. Personally, I would love to be there when they cuff him and perp walk him out of his nice little neighborhood.
I would also like to find the BIGGEST guy in the Dallas County Jail and convince him to make the thief his girlfriend for the other things he has put The Queen through. That's not happening, but it makes for a comforting fantasy.
Enough about that for now. One of these days, I will post the entire story.
Job search continues. 29 applications. 16 rejections including the AVP position and the unspecified position via the business associate connection. I did have a very good discussion with a recruiter yesterday who gave me some very helpful and honest feedback about my resume. She has a position (one of the 13 remaining) she is working on in Dallas that may or may not be a good fit for me. She emailed the employer while she was on the phone with me and asked if they would be interested in talking with someone like me. The answer was yes. Full resume was to be sent late yesterday or this morning. I hope to hear back soon.
I'm a bit frustrated about the rejections. Of the 16, only 5 have been formal, "Thanks, but no thanks" communications. The rest have all been informal, "the job is no longer posted or checking online reveals that you are no longer under consideration" non-communications.
I'm also frustrated with the available job pool. There is a fair number of good positions available in places I WON'T live. Boston, New York, Chicago, New Jersey. You know...liberal, statist HELL. I compromised a little yesterday and put in for a position in Sacramento, CA only because the salary range was almost double what I was making before.
In other news, I've been assisting someone close to me with their novel writing efforts while starting work on my own. It doesn't help that the person I am assisting is writing trashy romance novel material. My novel has a prologue written and an outline that still needs fleshing out. It's basically a treasure hunt/adventure novel. If there is any interest, I may be persuaded into a sample chapter or sending drafts to beta readers. The Queen loved the prologue. So, at least one person likes the idea.
That's all for now. I have to get busy and find work.
Wednesday, September 3, 2014
The other deal, despite being somewhat nebulous and undefined at the moment, has some advantages as well. Hopefully, one or more dominoes will start falling soon.
In other news, The Queen and I were forced to file third degree felony theft charges against someone yesterday for the first time in our lives. I can't go into details yet, but the short of it is that we were the victims of a con artist. There are aspects of the situation that would make your blood boil were I to share. "Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord"....but, let's just say I'd be happy to arrange a meeting.
Lots of lessons learned and relearned out of this experience. In this digital age, the information is out there. You just have to know where to look, how to look and take the time to be thorough. Don't do business with anyone you haven't thoroughly vetted. Big deals (if you can't afford to lose, it's a big deal) should include a background check especially if things don't pass the smell test.
As I told The Queen last night, it's easy to spot evil when it's walking down the street shooting people left and right. It's real hard to spot it when it sits down, siddles up next to you and smiles.
Abraham Lincoln said it even better: "You can fool all of the people some of the time...." This was our time.
We are resigned to the fact that we will likely never see our property again or the money that was promised (if we do, that's a bonus). Our goal is to simply insure that the thief can't do this again to anyone else. There are two other felony theft cases pending against him which we really wish we had found before we entered into an agreement with him (we would have found it if we had searched for Stephen instead of Steve). He's currently under a deferred adjudication order in another county for theft charges there. He's also being sued in civil court by someone else for circumstances nearly identical to ours (I'm in contact with that attorney trying to convince them to file criminal charges as well).
If you are in the Dallas/Fort Worth area and want to know who to avoid, send me an email. I'll be happy to share the name, court case references, etc.
Wednesday, August 20, 2014
So far, I've put in for 14 jobs that are within the ballpark of possibilities (and a couple that were stretches). I have my resume out to a couple of other folks in my network that have connections that might help. I've had two, unfruitful interviews and two rejection letters. There are two other jobs in the hopper that I need to apply for tonight.
I will say this though, I really appreciate companies that streamline the application process. Allowing a person to use their LinkedIn profile to apply makes life easier and quicker for everyone involved. Forcing someone at a senior level to fill out an employment application that contains the exact same information as your resume, however, is stupid.
If I could get away with it, I'd chuck it all and go be a gunsmith or welder.
Spent the day at the zoo with The Queen and M&M. Some thoughts:
The Queen is a genius for bringing gel cold packs that fit under my baseball cap and kept my head cool.
Fat women should not wear yoga pants. It's a crime against humanity.
M&M is a delight at the zoo. Standing at the zebra enclosure: "Why won't they come closer? I want to pet them." She wanted to get in the pens more than once. One of these days, there will be a news story of a cute little girl riding a zebra at the zoo. Just wait. It's coming.
If you have a brood of kids hanging off of you or in your arms, get off the stupid cell phone.
Sunday, August 17, 2014
I had to stay still for the better part of an hour, but it was so worth it.
Then, they turn the knob up to eleven.
Math and logic word problems...against the clock.
You have three minutes to read, analyze and calculate the correct answer, you can use scratch paper, a calculator, an abacus or a three year old. No cheating.
Most of them I did okay on. I think. The one that killed me went something like this (not exactly like this since I don't want to get in trouble with someone for sharing their intellectual property).
"Your company has 5 employees that buy widgets. Beavis buys 450 widgets at a $1 more than Cornholio pays. Butthead buys 650 widgets for $0.50 less than Cornholio pays but $0.75 more than Gribble pays. Gribble pays $1.00 more than Boomhauer does but buys 600 widgets. Cornholio buys 500 widgets and pays the princely sum of $5.25 per widget. Who spent the most money buying widgets?"
I locked up on that one scratching it out on paper. By the time I had it set up and was making headway, the clock was down to 7 seconds. Doh!!! Pick an answer and hope it's write. I checked myself later...nope...got it wrong. Just another minute, and I could have narrowed it down. But, they are timing this for a reason. How does this monkey perform under pressure and deadlines.
This monkey thinks this is a stupid shell game designed by MBAs who think solving math and logic problems against a clock is a useful metric.
Wednesday, August 13, 2014
I woke up this morning at 7:30 AM whether I liked it or not (I didn't), and there was no going back to bed. Even if I could have gotten to back sleep, I had a headache and a powerful need to do SOMETHING. So, I fired up the computer and began by responding to some of the emails and Facebook messages that I received. I started updating my resume and got it circulated to several people for a variety of reasons (kymber, I look forward to your thoughts).
I thought I would take a moment to share some of my thoughts on the whole situation as well as some of the blessings I've been counting.
First, despite the passage of 24 hours+ since the axe fell, I still have no better insight into why this happened. I doubt I ever will. I'm still convinced that the reason I was given was not the "real" reason; but, since Texas is a right to work state, they don't have to give me a reason. I have been in contact with some of my business associates that I've worked closely with over the last two and a half years. Universally, they were supportive and as shocked as I was. No one thus far has had a negative thing to say about my performance or skills which is a relief frankly. The Queen and I have our suspicions as to the reason why, but suspicions is all they are and will forever remain so. I have no interest in confirming those suspicions as it would serve no purpose beyond a small bit of closure. They have chosen to proceed without me, and I have to be content that they thought that was the best course of action for them.
I did get a little bit of appreciation from them today. I realized today that I had an Apple TV that had been bought by the company for use in presentations still in my possession at home. I emailed my former boss and the HR Director to ask them what they wanted me to do with. I was advised to keep it with a note of appreciation for my honesty. Every little bit helps I guess.
One very big blessing in all this is that we do not have a mortgage hanging over our heads like the sword of Damocles. The inlaws and my family have been very supportive. We have a roof over our heads as long as we need it. That is a relief beyond measure; and, I believe, a blessing from God that the house sold before this happened.
I kinda wish He had told me to wait on buying the new car though.
I have been blessed to receive offers of help from many of you as well as others. It's very reassuring to have people willing to go to bat for you when you've been kicked this hard. Having a professional contact you respect tell you that you're well liked and know what you're doing is very comforting when you've been cast aside.
I no longer feel the need to puke, and I haven't cried since this morning. So, that's progress.
The Queen, M&M and I spent some time this afternoon at the lake enjoying the water and sun together. That was very nice. I was even able to forget my situation for a short time. M&M and I had great fun splashing in the water. She can't swim yet, but she loves to be in the water and getting confident in allowing her head to go underwater.
I've been searching through job postings, and I've seen some that interest me and a couple that look like they were written for me. I will be applying for them over the next several days. Hopefully, something will come of that. In the meantime, I'm working my contacts and networking as much as I can.
Yesterday hurt pretty bad. Before I gave up the company phone, I sent The Queen a text to let her know what was going on as we were supposed to meet for dinner near the airport for a quick meal before I had to fly out on business. As I was cleaning out my desk under the watchful eye of the HR director, she kept calling me on my office phone trying to get a hold of me. I told HR that I was answering a call from my wife and had to tell The Queen a couple of times that I couldn't talk before finally having to hang up. It was all I could do to keep from completely falling apart on the phone, as I boxed up my accumulated stuff and on my way out the door. Even at that, I know I left several items behind for them to ship to me. It was a long two hour drive home. It was one of the hardest things I've ever done to pull into the driveway and face my wife who loves me and relies on me to provide for her and our daughter. I wanted to be anywhere else. Seeing the heartbreak on her face when I finally made it home, not directed at me but at the situation, and hearing the pain in her voice cut deep. I will be forever grateful to her for the love and support she gave me through her own hurt.
I wish I could report that I'm over it, that I'm all smiles and laughter. That would be complete and utter fertilizer. The healing has begun, but it is far from over.
Thanks again to all of you who read here and especially those who took the time to comment or email. Your friendship is very much appreciated.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
I received a call from my boss at 3:00 PM today to join him in the HR director's office. I was gently but bluntly informed that I was being laid off due to my position being eliminated. I have never been so shocked in my entire life by anything. Bar none. Other words were said, but they made no sense to me at the time or in hindsight. This truly came out of left field. I could go through my hindsight analysis of the situation, but the end result is that the stated reason for the layoff still makes no sense.
A lot of what transpired between then and when I arrived home is a blur, and I have no doubt I would not give an accurate account if pressed under oath. Frankly, I'm surprised I made it home without getting lost or into an accident.
I have no idea why this happened, but I do know that things will work out for the best. I'm not posting this looking for sympathy, but I would be grateful for any prayers, warm fuzzy feelings and good vibes you're willing to spare.
Erratic posting and irregularly scheduled programming will continue as normal.
Thursday, August 7, 2014
76 year old man gets into an argument with his insurance agent over why his auto insurance was canceled. Man gets physically thrown out of agent's office. Man sues agent. Man wins judgment. Agent's representatives attempt to partially satisfy the judgment with 17 buckets of loose coins.
As my current boss commented, there's got to be more to this story.
Now, I will admit that I have been sorely tempted to do something like this more than once in my insurance career. The one thing stopping me has been that the hassle of getting that much coinage together and delivering same far outweighed any pleasure I might have received at making a difficult attorney's life more difficult. I'm sure others in my profession will agree.
I bring this up because of a (probable spam) comment I received on my relatively recent post on litigation. The commenter stated: "Great information! Insurance companies don't like to pay claims and some inspectors or adjusters are invented to deny claims. With this said, if you have a legitimate claim, you should expect to be treated fairly and expect the insurance company to honor the claim."
My response to the commenter was: "I'm not sure what you mean by "some inspectors or adjusters are invented to deny claims", but I will say that claims people tend to be a jaded and suspicious lot by nature (it comes from too many dealings with sleazy lawyers and angry claimants). Insurance companies are in business to make money like every other business. As such, saying they don't like to pay claims is almost akin to saying the Pope is Catholic. Having said that, some companies have a well deserved reputation for being difficult and reluctant to pay claims while others are less difficult. Perhaps my next articles in the series will be on insurance companies and adjusters."
I thought I would take a moment and give a brief overview of the insurance business from the company perspective.
First, let's get one thing perfectly clear from the start: with very few exceptions, insurance companies are in business to make money. Any insurance company failing to make money for very long does not tend to stay in business for very long.
The primary vehicle for measuring the profitability of an insurance company is the loss ratio. In its purest form, the loss ratio is the total of all written premium collected divided by claims paid including expenses. There are two types of expenses: allocated loss adjustment expenses (A.L.A.E. for short though I've heard some people pronounce it as a word: "A-lay") and unallocated loss adjustment expenses (ULAE). ALAE is any expense that can be allocated to a specific claim file. The legal bill that pays for the attorney defending a specific lawsuit is ALAE as is private investigator, inspector, expert witness and other expenses when they arise out of a specific claim investigation. Adjuster salaries, office rent, electricity, phones, etc. are ULAE.
A loss ratio of 1.0 is break even. Loss ratios of greater than 1.0 mean a company is hemmorrhaging money, and loss ratios of less than 1.0 mean that the company should be profitable. It is theoretically possible for a company to have a 1.1 loss ratio and still turn a profit, but that feat requires successful return on investment of premium dollars which I may or may not discuss further. In my experience, it is rare to see a reported loss ratio below 0.50. The most profitable companies typically run a loss ratio in the .55 to .75 range. The majority of okay but financially profitable companies run ratios between .75 and .95. Companies having issues typically run loss ratios very close to or above 1.0. A recent example would be Fireman's Fund's dismal performance the last two years running with combined ratios (a combined ratio is the pure loss ratio including investment performance) of 1.294 (2012) and 1.036 (2013).
That's all so very nice and esoteric, but what does it mean?
To be honest, lots of things and nothing at all.
Underwriter and actuaries control one half of the equation (written premium) while the claims department controls most of the other half (losses paid and ALAE). Premium rates are set based on a variety of factors that are well beyond my limited math education and experience. Actuaries perform all sorts of calculations and review statistics (and goat entrails I'm sure) and analyze navels until they come up with a set of rates they think represents the rates that a given category of risk should pay. That's why teenage boys pay the highest rates for car insurance. Underwriters then stick their thumb in that pie and develop a set of underwriting guidelines that define the "appetite" for risk that the company wants to pursue. For instance, the last company I worked for prior to the one I am with now had a solid personal lines (auto and homeowner's insurance) and "middle market" appetite. They were content to pursue small to medium sized companies in a variety of industries, but they would steer away from anything too big or unique. Unique in the underwriting world = risky and hard to price.
Another driver of insurance premium rates is policyholder retention (or whatever the term de jour is). Basically, there is a finite number of people and/or companies out there. Most of them already have policies which forces the insurance industry to compete on price and service. Service is almost exclusively (but not completely) owned by the claims department. Underwriting sells a promise. Claims delivers on the promise. That leaves price. A company losing market share might choose to lower rates or increase its underwriting appetite or both in order to bring in more premium dollars, at the risk of increasing the loss ratio. A company seeing its loss ratio rise might choose to do the opposite, at the risk of losing market share. It's a very delicate balancing act.
That brings us to the loss/claims side of the equation. As mentioned a moment ago, service belongs to claims. There is a distinction here that needs to be mentioned (one I've mentioned before). When you see an ad for an insurance company on TV talking about fast claims service, they are talking about first party claims. A first party claim is one in which you the policyholder are making a claim for benefits to be paid to you under your policy. An example would be making a comprehensive or collision claim on your auto policy. A liability claim where someone else makes a claim on your policy for benefits to be paid to them arising from an accident caused by your negligence is a third party claim.
What difference does it make? Most states, if not all states, have some form of statutory or regulatory guidelines for how first party claims can/should be handled under pain of fine or penalty for failure to comply. As a result, the claims process for first party claims is pretty streamlined and efficient. Some companies still have field adjusters who will come to you; and, in some cases, they will even cut a check for the damages on the spot. Additionally, there is usually no requirement on a first party claim to prove legal liability as is required by the insuring agreement on a liability policy since a first party claim arises from contractual language as opposed to tort negligence theory. Prove that the contract was in effect and that the damages incurred are covered by said contract (which is usually self evident), and the check is in the mail.
Most of the time, when someone is griping about an insurance company, they are griping about the handling of a third party claim. As mentioned in a prior post, the time frames on a third party liability claim can go on for years. Most people anymore lose their patience and tempers after a few seconds. So, you can imagine how much fun third party claimants are to deal with when you deny their claims.
Now, as for the prevailing thought that adjusters look for reasons to deny a claim or that insurance companies don't like to pay claims, the short answer is that it depends.
Most individual insurance adjusters are hard working people trying to earn a living and do a good job. They have neither the authority nor do they receive the level of reward necessary to incentivise denying valid claims for no reason. The average adjuster, in my experience, is handling between 75 and 175 claims at any given time depending on the complexity of the mix. Most adjusters have very limited personal authority requiring management approval for settlements/reserves above certain amounts, coverage issues, etc. Most adjusters also know that denying a claim does not mean it goes away. In this litigious society, they know that it just means a lawsuit will be coming in soon and that file will be around a lot longer. If anything, there is a human nature tendency to find ways to PAY claims because settled files very rarely reopen, and adjusters have better things to do with their time than reopen files. As such, a permanently closed file is a happy file. Yes, there are individual adjusters that are jerks who are difficult to deal with. Pick any industry...you will find your share of jerks there too. The bottom line is that adjusters are people too subject to the same pressures and feelings as anyone else.
At the company level, there is not an insurance company in business today that has an official "smoking gun" document from senior management that says "look for ways to deny claims" or something to that effect. No one I am aware of is that stupid given the lengths to which bad faith lawyers will go to find such information. Now, will middle management do or say something stupid like that? Yes. I had an assistant VP of claims at a large, international insurance company tell me personally "I don't care if it's right. I just want it done." I explained to him that I had no intention of doing what he told me as I had no intention of explaining why such an unethical thing was done when my deposition would be taken in the inevitable bad faith lawsuit. His boss agreed with me after the fact. I still left that company pretty quickly thereafter though.
Will a company institute policies or procedures that make the claims process more difficult for everyone involved (adjuster and claimant alike)? Yep. Been there. Done that. Google "allstate colossus" for one such example. I've never worked for Allstate, but I did work for one company that also used Colossus for certain types of claims. I can attest that it is just like every other computer program in existence: garbage in, garbage out.
One consequence of the whole loss ratio analysis discussed above is the cyclical nature of claims settlements. When the loss ratio is high, the claims department gets pressure to "lower the loss ratio" or "reduce expenses". This can take the form of taking more cases in litigation to trial (which is counter intuitive since it involves incurring more expense) or settling more cases (which is also counter intuitive for obvious reasons). Taking more cases to trial is problematic for a variety of reasons not the least of which is the almost Byzantine nature of our legal process. Most adjusters hate to lose cases at trial. As such, they tend to recommend very few cases for trial and then only those that have legitimate, unresolvable disputes or those that they believe are "slam dunk" cases. I have sat in more than a few roundtables where I've told upper management in no uncertain terms that trying a particular case would be an epic mistake. Usually, they are smart enough to listen and the case eventually settles.
It should be noted that insurance companies don't just take premium dollars and dump them in an interest bearing checking account hoping everything balances at the end of the month. There is a whole side of the business controlled by accounting and the CFO that takes the money, invests it and hopefully scores a boatload of return on investment earnings in the process. Sometimes, that can blow up in their faces. AIG most notably went to the brink of oblivion just after the housing bubble burst in 2008 through over reliance on mortgage backed derivative investments. Hartford got splashed by that same bubble bursting for the same reasons but fared much better through a more diverse investment portfolio.
This is a pretty big topic that I am only scratching the surface of here, but I need to get back to work. If you are really that interested, you can dig into the mechanics of reserving and prior year development charges to present earnings, etc. That's homework for you CPA types.
In closing, your attorney is no better or worse a person than the adjuster for the insurance company. Treat them with the Golden Rule, and things will usually work out the way they are supposed to.